I wrote this piece for a submission to an anthology that seems stuck in limbo, but I’d thought I’d finally share it. The idea was to write a short story in three parts, but have a different author write each part. The anthology would have 12 stories with 36 authors in all (each author doing a different section of each story).
The first part was a “Grim Future.” The second part was the “The Last 5 minutes of the World.” The third and final part was, “What next?” I submitted a Grim Future. Since it was to be a short story, each section was limited in word count and since I did the first part, it was a chance to do some quick world building. My piece is brief and it moves quickly, but that was sort of the point of the setup to the story. It’s a bit of Sci-Fi and a bit of apocalypse, two of my favorite things to read and write about. Enjoy

 

Grim Future – Sporelings

 

For thousands of years, mankind has been driven by insatiable curiosity to study the great pyramids of Egypt. What secrets hide inside these ancient wonders? Could they hold the key to mankind’s future, or perhaps missing links to the past? The quest continues…

#

 

Present day—El Giza, Egypt— The Great Pyramid

After eleven previous investigations over the past decade, Archaeologist Elliot Gray and his team once again entered the queen’s chamber of the Great Pyramid. This time they were equipped with the excavation robot, SARTI (Standard Archaeological Robotic Technology Inc.). A small remote-controlled robot, SARTI was able to scale narrow shafts and scan targets with infrared and ultrasonic waves.

“Alec,” Elliot said. “The target is above the queen’s chamber. That two-meter slab is where I need the bloody robot.”

Alec Cooper, the team’s chief engineer, tapped on the computer interface. “We’re ready, Elliot.”

SARTI began the ascent.

As the monitors came to life, the team eagerly watched the robot climb to the top of the shaft. A few minutes later, SARTI rotated and began a heat scan.

Twenty minutes passed and a frustrated Elliot glared at Alec. “Oh, for crying out loud, that godforsaken thing is bloody useless. There’s nothing but rock.”

“Hold on,” Alec said. “Give it another few minutes. Let SARTI run the full program.”

The screen went dark. A scan using low-frequency waves began, followed by one with ultrasonic waves.

Elliot watched the screen for a few minutes more, then scowled, impatient with the lack of progress. “Still nothing? How much did the bag of bolts cost us anyway?”

“Bloody hell, Elliot, give it a few minutes, would ya.”

The computer signaled a target, displaying the ultrasonic image of a dark oblong shape in the center. Alec pointed to the monitor. “Look, there, SARTI found something.”

“Brilliant!” Elliot couldn’t turn away from the screen. “Well, get a move on,” he said. “Go! Go! Tell that idiotic robot to bring it here!”

#

Several hours later

Once SARTI had brought the artifact to the queen’s chamber, Alec put on protective gloves and reached inside the specimen tray. Carefully, he picked up the object. “Outstanding,” he said. “It’s a golden scarab. You suppose it’s some type of jewelry?”

Puzzled, Elliot frowned and reached for the scarab. “Jewelry?” he said, “hidden between the queen and king’s chamber. I think not. Look here, there’s something more!” He pressed against the head.

It snapped open.

Elliot’s eyes widened with awe. Darkness rested in his palm, a void, as though he peered straight into a black hole from the deepest space.

“What is it?” Alec asked. “What do you see?”

Elliot didn’t answer. He couldn’t turn away from the darkness inside the scarab. What have we found? he thought, full of wonder. A dark, bottomless, pit … inside a golden scarab? “It can’t be,” whispered.

The scarab began to grow hot in his hand. “Damn!” He dropped it, the palm of his hand blistered.

“What the hell?” Alec said, slowly backing away. His gaze remained locked on the dusting of dark, odorless material rising from the scarab. “You think it could be a type of fungus maybe, or spores?”

“Yes,” Elliot whispered. “Sporlings” The name just came to mind, he couldn’t say why. As he watched, the dark mass pulled into a tight circle, then pulsed. Elliot jumped when the circle loosened and doubled in size above his head. Seconds later it repeated the process. It’s breathing, he thought. But getting bigger on every exhale. The first twinges of unease tickled at his mind.

The sporelings were multiplying at an alarming rate!

“Let’s get out of here!” Alec yelled. “Elliot, we don’t know what it is!” He turned to run from the room, not waiting to see if Elliot followed.

But Elliot hadn’t heard him, too mesmerized by the growing void of darkness above him … so much like the one he’d viewed inside the scarab. A black hole being birthed through a gateway in the ceiling.

Terror struck Elliot at the thought; it tore through his guts, a cramping, almost crippling pain. What if the shroud dropped down and sucked him through?

He didn’t wait around to find out.

Elliot ran.

#

In less than a week, Elliot’s sporelings had spread across the planet. It didn’t take long when every time they pulsed, the dark cloud doubled in size, releasing more of their progeny into the air. At the end of the tenth day, the swirling mass floated down and settled into the soil. It attached to all plant life and began to manipulate their basic structure on a cellular level. Fragile flora, green stems, leaves and flowers were transformed, turned black and indestructible. Botanist learned the shiny obsidian material affected every variety: cacti in the hottest desert, worldwide forests and jungles, and algae and seaweed in the deepest oceans.

Nothing was spared.

#

It took only ten days to send the world into chaos. As the plants continued their metamorphosis, they began to pulse, releasing more toxins into the environment. Desperate Scientists searched for ways to combat them, but were defeated at every turn. Volcanoes erupted, earthquakes rumbled, tornadoes and hurricanes wrecked havoc. The land waged war against man, destroying everything in its path.

Cities crumbled.

People died.

Then Botanist learned the new species of obsidian plants absorbed the sun’s energy at fifty times the level of their native species. The added warmth quickly raised surface temperatures. Polar caps melted, but the newly released water evaporated almost immediately—along with the water in every river, lake, and ocean. It soon created a canopy of water in the stratosphere causing a greenhouse effect below. The increased atmospheric pressure made the oxygen and carbon dioxide richer.

But would anyone be left to reap the potential rewards?

 

#

On the twelfth hour of the twelfth day after Elliot released the sporelings, the alien plants reached maturity. Almost as one, the shiny obsidian leaves turned upward toward the heavens and began a rhythmic pulse. The few people still left watched, worried it might be a signal of some kind, a beacon.

But a signal to whom?

Or what? 

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